National Review Online recently asked me to choose a short stack of books for summer reading. To see my list, go here.
Archives for July 6, 2011
WEDNESDAY No, this isn’t a vacation. (What’s a vacation?) I have to hit my weekly deadlines regardless of where I am at any given moment, so I got up shortly after sunrise and spent the morning writing and polishing my Wall Street Journal review of House & Garden while Mrs. T slept.
After I finished Friday’s drama column and e-mailed it to my editors in New York, we ate omelets at a seaside spot a couple of blocks from our front door, then hit the beach. I’m one of those indoor types who gets sunburned roughly a minute and a half after stripping off my shirt. Instead of repining, I accepted the inevitable and plunged promptly and heedlessly into the sea, knowing that I’d pay the price a day or two later. It was, as always, worth it. Those who grow up landlocked don’t take waves for granted. Indeed, I like listening to the ocean as much as I like swimming in it. No big surprise, I guess, but I never get tired of hearing the surf.
For dinner we went to our favorite Cape May restaurant, Louisa’s Cafe, a hole-in-the-wallish seafood place whose cuisine is too eccentric for most tourists (every dish on the menu comes with brown rice and cabbage slaw on the side) but which suits us right down to the ground. The dining room is so tiny that you have to call at the start of the week to make a reservation, but we managed to wangle one. Mrs. T and I shared bluefish, crabcakes, and a generous helping of dark chocolate bread pudding, then strolled through town to the First Presbyterian Church of Cape May, in whose handsome polygonal sanctuary the East Lynne Theater Company performs. Along the way we stopped to call my brother in Smalltown, U.S.A., who told us that my mother, who nearly died three weeks ago, will go home from the rehab center on Friday. They don’t make ’em like they used to!
THURSDAY Because of the way my schedule works, Mrs. T and I have to grab our weekends whenever and wherever we can. Ours came today. No shows and no deadlines, so we slept late, then spent the rest of the day on the beach. (Oh, to be able to squeal like a small boy riding a big wave!) In the evening we took a sunset dinner cruise on a Cape May Whale Watch boat, which cruised up and down the coast as we nibbled on pizza and hot dogs and scanned the horizon in search of whales, dolphins, and pretty clouds.
FRIDAY I rose at seven, toasted a bagel, planted myself in a rocking chair on a porch across the street from the Atlantic Ocean, and spent the morning reading Simon Morrison’s The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years, wishing with all my heart that we didn’t have to leave after lunch. The hardest part of living out of a suitcase is that you’re forever leaving places that you love.
I’ve been on a Prokofiev-Shostakovich kick for the past week, and Morrison’s book, which somehow escaped my attention when it was published in this country last fall, is a major contribution to the Prokofiev literature, a brutally honest study of a self-centered émigré composer who returned to the Soviet Union in order to advance his career, then discovered to his dismay that life there was infinitely harder and more hazardous than he’d been led to believe. It doesn’t make for pretty reading, though I don’t love Prokofiev’s music less for having learned that he was a ruthless opportunist–especially given the fact that he paid so high a price for his selfish folly.
At noon Mrs. T and I headed back to Connecticut. It took us nine hours to get there, three more than usual. In order to take our minds off the unmitigated hell of pre-Fourth-of-July traffic, we fired up the CD deck and listened to the Byrds, Neneh Cherry, Kiss Me, Kate and Lee Wiley all the way home, then fell with relief into bed and got a good night’s sleep.
(Last of three parts)
A rare, undated sound film of Sergei Prokofiev playing an excerpt from his operatic version of War and Peace, followed by a brief Russian-language interview:
For a translation, go here and scroll down.
To hear Prokofiev speak in English, go here.
(This is the latest in a weekly series of arts-related videos that appear in this space each Wednesday.)
“It takes a great deal of Christianity to wipe out uncivilized Eastern instincts, such as falling in love at first sight.”
Rudyard Kipling, “Lisbeth”